Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 105 SE
Handsome Leon is a little more conservative than outgoing car
- Solid build quality makes the car feel substantial
- Longer wheelbase gives more interior space
- Economical engines help lower running costs
- Better to drive thanks to weight reduction
- Options and spec can quickly rack up the price
- Better rear suspension only available on higher-spec models
- Design arguably more conservative than before
- No Cupra models at launch
Seat has carved itself a healthy slice of a crowded market with previous generations of its Leon hatchback, and in many ways is the best representative of the Spanish brands ethos; value, style and a sporting flavour. The latest Leon has the potential to be the best yet as it uses the same architecture as the latest Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3.
The last generation Leon hatchback was such a success that the new model has something of a challenge to outshine it. The outgoing model had a distinctive exterior, a good quality and practical cabin and impressive mechanicals. The sporty models in the range also proved particularly popular, but on first impressions it seems Seat is keen to follow this template with the new car.
An all-new chassis is the key factor with a longer wheelbase for more interior space, and by introducing improvements in terms of refinement Seat hopes to ensure the Leon not only continues to appeal to traditional C-Segment car buyers, but can also attract customers who traditionally drive larger vehicles and are keen to downsize to reduce running costs.
With this in mind, the Leon benefits from the latest crop of engines. Turbocharged small-capacity petrol engines suit the Leon well and offer smooth, powerful driving characteristics. The 2.0-litre diesel units at the top end of the range have been revised, with more power and lower emissions.
The most economical models are 1.6-litre diesels, making them the ones to watch for company car users. A reduction in overall car weight for this generation of Leon helps them to achieve new best efficiency figures for the model. The various engines usually come with a choice of gearbox partners; either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic DSG unit.
Our verdict on the Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 105 SE
There is a great deal to like about the new Leon, as it builds on the strong elements of the previous car and takes important strides forward elsewhere. It is perhaps the lowliest models in the range that make the most sense, for although they have the cheaper rear suspension set up they do also offer impressive value for money with almost the same level of ability.
New engines have made the Leon even more efficient, and impressive economy from the entire initial range of engines means small bills. Insurance groupings are low thanks to good security and safety measures.
Space and practicality
A roomy interior has made the Leon one of the most practical cars in its class, particularly in five-door form, and thanks to the longer wheelbase on the latest model there is more interior space than ever. The boot is large and square with little wasted space, leg- and in particular headroom is excellent in the rear and there's plenty of storage in the front. The glove box is also chilled, a useful function for long road trips.
Controls and display
The new instruments are clear and easy to read at a glance, and crisply illuminated. The touch-screen display is more than good enough for general use and offers clear options, responding well to modest pressure. The central controls for air movement and the stereo are neatly packaged, with a minimalist approach that works well.
A more steeply-raked windscreen creates less wind noise, and better aerodynamics mean less buffeting around the car. Even the pedals have been acoustically damped to limit vibration inside the cabin. Supportive, if firm, seats and climate control add to the comfort levels.
An immobiliser is standard equipment, as is an automatic speed-sensitive door locking system that can be deactivated if required. Naturally, all models feature remote central locking and the lockable glove box is an additional benefit. The hatchback body means items in the boot are concealed from view by the parcel shelf.
Seat will not settle for less than the maximum score for any of its cars, and a five-star safety rating comes as no surprise. A raft of airbags including one for the driver's knee, a whiplash restraint system and seatbelt fastening detection for the rear seats are all included. ABS with brake assist, an advanced ESP system with a differential lock and traction control and automatic hazard light activation ought to prevent many of the systems being tested, however.
The main change that the all-new chassis brings with it is a longer wheelbase, which can make the car less eager to turn into corners than it otherwise would be, but it also means that the new model is a better cruiser. Significant weight loss has helped to transform the handling and has turned twisty roads into a genuinely enjoyable experience.
Family car appeal
The Leon is built as a family car and so is a prefect fit for the role. Rear legroom is excellent, most materials are resistant to knocks and there is a full array of child-friendly features including Isofix child seat mounts, a switchable passenger-side front airbag and a capacious boot that can hold lots of luggage or a pushchair.
First car appeal
While younger first-time car buyers are likely to choose something smaller and more manageable than the Leon, more people are waiting until later in life to pass their tests, especially those that live in big cities, in which case the Leon is an ideal all-rounder.
Quality and image
Quality has improved still further on this latest Leon, particularly in road manners, helped by the brand-new architecture. Image-wise the Leon still has that sporty flavour and is all the better for it, even on the more humble models.
To aid aerodynamics this Leon has been made less tall than its predecessor, but not by enough to make it any harder to get in and out. Clearly, the five-door model makes accessing the rear seats easier, but doors open to a wide angle in all versions with a new system that is designed to allow the doors to rest at almost any position without falling into the car next door. The tailgate is large and wide, which means getting items in and out of the large boot is reasonably easy.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Standard equipment on all trim levels is a single slot MP3 compatible CD player. An upgraded system can be optionally specified. All cars have a standard colour touch-screen interface to allow easy control of music and other in-car functions. There are ports to allow the use of MP3 players as standard too.
Colours and trim
The Leon has some of the sharp creases and bold lines typical of a Seat but even so it looks its best in brighter colours. As for the trim, generally it is dark grey or black but the lighter options do help to avoid a gloomy feeling inside.
Everyday usability is one area that the Leon has always excelled in, and parking it is extremely easy thanks to speed-sensitive steering, good visibility and restrained, easy-to-judge shape. A parking assistance system is available as an option on higher models, measuring the size of spaces and operating the steering to reverse the car into them, which might appeal to city drivers.
Emergency tyre repair kit fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (104bhp); 1.4-litre(138bhp); 1.8-litre (178bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre (104bhp); 2.0-litre (148bhp, 180bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, seven-speed DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox with switchable sequential manual mode. Trim levels: S, SE, FR.
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